MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The NHMRC report on homeopathy is the most thorough, independent and reliable investigation into the value of homeopathy ever. As its conclusions are devastatingly negative about the value of homeopathy, it is hardly surprising that homeopaths tried everything and anything to undermine it. This new article gives what I believe to be a fair account of the allegations and their validity:

START OF QUOTE

Since the NHMRC declared homeopathy to be ineffective in treating any health condition, a number of disputes have been made by major organisations in favour of homeopathy. Australia’s two peak industry organisations, Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) and the AHA, both argue in their letters to the NHRMC that the position was prejudiced based on a draft position statement leaked in 2012 stating it is unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy (as a medicine or procedure) has been shown not to be efficacious [19,20]. Furthermore, both the CMA and AHA highlight serious concerns regarding the prelude to and instigation of the work of the NHMRC’s HWC as well as the conduct of the review itself to finalise their conclusion on the use of homeopathy. Several grave issues were raised in both letters with five common key flaws cited: (1) no explanation was provided as to why level 1 evidence including randomised control trials were excluded from the review; (2) the database search used was not broad enough to capture complementary medicine and homeopathic specific content, and excluded non-human and non-English studies; (3) no homeopathic expert was appointed in the NHMRC Review Panel; (4) prior to publication, the concerns raised over the methodology and selective use of data by research contractor(s) engaged for the HWC review were abandoned for unknown reasons; and (5) no justification was provided as to why only systematic reviews were used [19,20]. Other serious accusations made by the AHA in their response letter to the NHMRC involved the blatant bias of the NHMRC evident by: the leakage of their draft position statement in April 2011 and early release of the HWC Draft Review regarding homeopathy to the media; no discussion of prophylactic homeopathy i.e. preventative healthcare; and no reference to the cost-effectiveness, safety, and quality of homeopathic medicines [19].

Despite the NHMRC findings being strongly disputed, they are further supported by positions taken by a number of large and respected organisations. For example, in 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against the use of homeopathic medicines for various serious diseases following significant concerns being raised by major health authorities, pharmaceutical industries, and consumers regarding its safety and quality [21]. They reported the clinical effects were compatible with placebo effects [21]. Similarly, in Australia, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) further supports the NHMRC findings by stating in their position statement released in 2012 that there is limited efficacy evidence regarding most complementary medicines, thereby posing a risk to patient health [22]. More recently, in May 2015, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RACGPs) strongly advocated in their position statement against general practitioners prescribing homeopathic medicines, and pharmacists against supporting or recommending it, given the lack of evidence regarding its efficacy [23]. This is particularly pertinent to conventional vaccines given the recent case between the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) vs. Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd. The Federal Court found Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd guilty of contravening the Australian Consumer Law by engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct through claiming that homeopathic remedies were a proven, safe, and effective alternative to the conventional vaccine against whooping cough [24].

The positions of the NHMRC, WHO, AMA, and the RACGPs regarding homeopathy is further supported by Cochrane reviews, which provide high-quality evidence with minimal bias [25]. Of the twelve homeopathy Cochrane reviews available in the database, only seven address homeopathic remedies directly and were related to the following conditions: irritable bowel syndrome [26], attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or hyperkinetic disorder [27], chronic asthma [28], dementia [29], induction of labour [30], cancer [31], and influenza [32]. Given most of these reviews were authored by homeopaths, bias against homeopathy is unlikely [26-32]. The overarching conclusions from these reviews fail to reveal compelling evidence regarding the efficacy of homeopathic remedies [26-32]. For example, Mathie, Frye and Fisher show that there is “no significant difference between the effects of homeopathic Oscillococcinum® and placebo in prevention of influenza-like illness: risk ratio (RR) = 0.48, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.17-1.34, p-value = 0.16 [31]. The key reasons given for this failure to provide compelling evidence relate to low quality or unclear data, and lack of replicability, suggesting homeopathic remedies are unlikely to have clinical effects beyond placebo [26-32].

Sadly, the ACCC vs. Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd is not the only case that has made headlines in Australia in recent years. An article in the Journal of Law and Medicine coincided with the NHMRC report regarding the number of deaths attributable to favouring homeopathy over conventional medical treatment in recent years [33]. One such case was that of Jessica Ainscough, who passed away earlier this year after losing her battle with a rare form of cancer “epithelioid sarcoma“ after rejecting conventional treatment in favour of alternative therapies [34]. Although doctors recognise Ms. Ainscough’s right to choose her own cancer treatments and understand why she refused the disfiguring surgery to save her life, they fear her message may influence others to reject conventional treatments that could ultimately save their lives [35]. Another near death case was that of an eight-month-old boy whose mother was charged with “reckless grievous bodily harm and failure to provide for a child causing danger to death” after ceasing conventional medical and dermatological treatment for her son’s eczema as advised by her naturopath (an umbrella term that includes homeopathy) [36]. The all-liquid treatment plan left the boy severely malnourished and consequently, he now suffers from developmental issues [37]. This case is rather similar to that of R vs. Sam in 2009, where the parents of a nine-month-old girl were convicted of manslaughter by criminal negligence after favouring homeopathic treatment over conventional medical treatment for their daughter’s eczema. The girl died from septicaemia after her eczema became infected [36,37].

[references are provided in the original document]

END OF QUOTE

The NHMRC report stated that

Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness. People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner and should keep taking any prescribed treatments.

Few other reports have previously expressed our concerns about homeopathy so clearly – little wonder then that the world of homeopathy was (and still is) up in arms.

The last time something similar happened was during the Third Reich when homeopathy had been evaluated thoroughly by leading scientists and the conclusions turned out to be just as devastatingly negative. At the time, German homeopaths allegedly made the report disappear, and all we have today about this comprehensive research programme is a very detailed eye witness report of a homeopath who had been intimately involved in the research.

Today, it is thankfully no longer possible to make major research documents disappear. So, homeopaths have to think of other strategies to defend their trade. In the case of the NHMRC report, they act like all cults tend to do and resort to misleading statements and slanderous allegations. This, I feel, is unsurprising and will inevitably turn out to be unsuccessful.

44 Responses to HOMEOPATHY: the NHMRC report revisited

  • The BMA’s position is that homeopathic remedies should not be purchased by the NHS unless and until NICE reports on its cost effectiveness.

    Many doctors are content that homeopathic consultations may help patients come to terms with their conditions, but given the absence of plausible evidence of effect on any specific condition, I too regard use of HP remedies as unethical.

    NICE has declined to prepare a report, allegedly due to influence ‘from certain persons.’
    Jeremy Hunt is confused. He has supported an early day motion calling for NHS homeopathy, and then said he will ‘follow the science.’
    The NHS CEO said (speaking on Radio 4 ‘Today’) that he agrees with the Chief Medical Officer who said ‘Homeopathy is rubbish’, but did not explain why he failed to include such remedies in his recent list of proscribed medicines.

    Hey ho.

  • Looks like homeopathy’ drowning.

  • Homeopathy has miraculous cures done by its practitioners. Beyond the 18th C potency there is no trace of the medicine source so the science is called fictitious and fake. But why not look at the cured patients to see its efficacy. Wasting time to prove its inefficacy is beyond comprehension. One can say there is no God just by the fact that the material eye cannot see Him. In India many people turn to homeopathy when all available therapeutic resources fail to help the patient and find relief.

    • “Wasting time to prove its inefficacy is beyond comprehension”
      nobody aims at doing this; arguably, it is impossible. but we need proof of its efficacy; until we have that, we have to characterise homeopathy as inefficacious.

      • This is sheer conspiracy on part of allopaths &allopathic pharma industry to kill homoeopathy because they r frightened they will b trolled by homoeopathy…come to india u will meet many postgraduate allopaths who hav turned homoeopaths & r now practising homeopathy bcoz they r convinced of its great efficacy….& u want evidence of its efficacy ?? U will get ample amount of its efficacy & proof….This badmouthing about homeopathy is nothing but insecurity of u allopaths of beign trolled by homoeopathy…not only in india but in many european countries too people r taking homoeopathy instead of allopathy…all these hav caused insecurity among allopaths…so such comments….

        • @Annie

          What proportion of the Indian population use homeopathy?

          But if you ever come across any good evidence that ‘allopaths &allopathic pharma industry’ are frightened by the homeopathy industry, please feel free to provide it.

          Meanwhile, as for people taking homeopathy instead of ‘allopathy’, here’s a report on just one such case.

        • I am an Indian, living in Mumbai (Bombay) and a witness to the inefficacy of homeopathy and the huge amount of unnecessary deaths as a result of people rejecting scientific treatment. Its rejection of vaccinations is a ticking bomb and given the crowded nature of urban populations, diseases that have not been a problem for decades will spread like wildfires. You, Annie George, probably well protected by vaccinations, should be ashamed of yourself for your untruthful promotion of Homeopathy. If one of your dear ones suffers from a fracture would you take him to a homeopath?

    • First, it is the task of homeopaths to prove their hypothesis.

      Second, clinical studies look exactly at the patients.

      Third, we are not wasting time to disprove homeopathy. We are pointing out the weakness of the evidence.

      Fourth, quote: “In India many people turn to homeopathy when all available therapeutic resources fail to help the patient and find relief.”. Yes, India even has the AYUSH, yet no credible studies on the efficacy of homeopathy have come forth, despite having tens of thousands of patients. What does that tell you ?

    • Sarabjeet Singh Saggu said:

      In India many people turn to homeopathy when all available therapeutic resources fail to help the patient and find relief.

      What proportion use homeopathy and how do you know they resort to it after ‘all available therapeutic resources fail to help the patient and find relief’?

  • Of course, “In India many people turn to homeopathy when all available therapeutic resources fail to help the patient and find relief.”

    But that is because patients need TLC. The remedies sold by homeopaths have no effect whatsoever (and are diluted so that they do not). Conflating the care obtained from a practitioner/therapist with the practice of prescribing remedies and therapies prevents attention being given to the benefits of the former by fantasising over the latter.

    What is the problem which homeopaths have to which the answer is, ‘I must study homeopathy and prescribe homeopathic remedies?’

  • Every homoeopath have documentry proof of treating patients in homoeopathy.. If it is fake science why govt of india includein health system.. Western country have fear from homoeopathy becoz now a days its second world largest treatment pathy.. Famous homoepathic medcine mabufacture company are from uk.usa..germany… Its war between homoepathy and allopathy.. Every science have limitations we hv limitations in suregry but where allopathy fail to do suregry.. Homoepathy wrk there.. If allopathy side of lab investigation are normal than no medcine given to patient even he suffer from diseaee but we treat the patient on thier symptom if the reports are normal.. I treated more than ten thousand of renal stone size vary from 2mm to 25mm with documentary evidence as well as stone of pt.. How the science can fake or unethical.. Cant understand.. Thnks

    • “Every homoeopath have documentry proof of treating patients in homoeopathy”
      proof of efficacy is something different entirely; perhaps you want to read this: http://edzardernst.com/2012/11/what-is-and-what-isnt-clinical-evidence-and-why-is-the-distinction-important/
      the rest of your comment is too naïve to merit a response, in my view.

      • “the rest of your comment is too naïve to merit a response, in my view.”

        Oh go on… at least you might pick up on “but we treat the patient on thier symptom if the reports are normal”. That’s surely a definition of either gross ignorance or lunacy. I thought it was ‘allopathic’ doctors who’re supposed to give patients unnecessary pills!

    • vimal soni said:

      Western country have fear from homoeopathy becoz now a days its second world largest treatment pathy.

      Please do try to provide evidence for your claim that homeopathy is the second largest treatment ‘pathy’ – I’d love to see it.

  • Just sad that the ‘Complementary Medicines Australia’ statement is now being used all around the world to ignore the NHMRC report. Here is the link to the Homoeopathic Association of South Africa who is the proud owners of the trademark “Homoeopathy, the Wellness Profession” https://www.homeopathy.org.za/hsa-aus.html

  • I can ‘proudly’ proclaim that Iqbal has found my Blog site as well – unfortunately with the same sense of logic.
    Question is: is there any examples from homeopaths where homeopathy has gone wrong? Eg. medications that have been voluntary recalled because they were found to be ineffective after ‘extensive’ testing by various homeopathy society’s etc. or even homeopaths that produces ‘fake’ homeopathic medications etc. Is there any good examples out there?

    • No Frank, but Iqbal is a good example of homeopathy gone wrong.

      • Iqbal, is their really no example of a ”voluntary recall’ of either a treatment or a ‘rogue’ practitioner?. You do care so much about the health of people(?), and Big Pharma is so terrible, this surely must have happened somewhere in the past?. Any examples?

    • Frank van der Kooy

      Go back and read.

      “I can ‘proudly’ proclaim that Iqbal has found my Blog site as well”

      I was extremely impressed with your “homeopathic logic” regarding gunpowder as a homeopathic remedy and compared it with that of a homeopath.

      You have to make a lot of improvement in your logical thinking.

  • The suspense is killing me:)

    Here is Iqbal’s comment on my Blog re Homeopathic Gunpowder 30C (goo.gl/qH0jd4)

    “You have NO CLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    http://www.homeoint.org/clarke/g/gunp.htm

    Edzard is a paid shill.”

  • “I can still remember that this NHMRC report caused a lot of waves in Australia and beyond, when it was released. It caused my former employer, the NICM, to call for emergency meetings with their big buddies, Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA), and together they came up with their ground-breaking statement; “The Five Fundamental Flaws of the NHMRC Homeopathy Review”, which is now being used by homeopaths around the world to ignore the NHMRC report and to continue to sell water as medicine to sick children. http://www.cmaustralia.org.au/Media-Releases/3171401

    But this report also eventually led me to resign from the NICM after I wrote to the VC about this (and many other irregularities) but ultimately and unfortunately, he decided to ignore the whole matter and to continue to use taxpayer funds to support pseudoscience. And as always, money is at the heart of the problem. If you, as a Uni, accept millions of dollars of funding from Homeopaths, Energy healers etc. then you have to defend what they do, otherwise you might lose your income. So, the NICM accepted about $4 million from the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies who promotes a very long list of BS – this list was also coincidentally deleted from their website after I wrote to our VC, but you can still find it archived here:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20140621155715/http:/jackafoundation.org.au/index.php/about-natural-therapies

    So, the only progress that these people are making in their ‘science’ is that they learn how to hide what they really do better. And sadly, the VC of this Uni is fully supportive of all of this and they are now even planning to open a large ‘integrative’ TCM clinic in the heart of Sydney. So I am not sure if their attempts to destroy the NHMRC report is bound to fail – they are just happily continuing with what they are doing, and if anything, they are expanding on their range of BS therapies.

  • The NHMRC published another review on natural therapies, and although not as well known as their Homeopathy review, it caused the same dramatic scenes of disbelieve and people bursting into tears etc in the hallways of the NICM.

    The reason is simple, because the report states “The purpose of the Review was to ensure that natural therapies are underpinned by a credible evidence base that demonstrates their clinical efficacy, cost-effectiveness and safety and
    quality. The Rebate will be paid for insurance products that cover natural therapy services as
    described in the previous Government’s media release: The Private Health Insurance Rebate will be paid for insurance products that cover natural therapy services only where the Chief Medical Officer finds there is clear evidence they are clinically effective. Such clear evidence has not been found.”

    http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/phi-natural-therapies

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